Shippers’ Council, NEXIM Bank collaborates on national carrier

Matthew Otoijagha

The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) has said that it is collaborating with the Nigerian Export- Import Bank for provision of a special fund in the 60 percent holding for Nigerians in the planned national carrier.

It would be recalled that Nigeria and Singapore had last year reached an agreement to establish a private sector driven national carrier with stake holding of 60 to 40 percent respectively.

Executive Secretary of the Council, Hassan Bello disclosed this in Lagos when he received members of the Association of Marine Engineers and Surveyors (AMES) led by its President, Charles Uwadia who paid him a courtesy visit in his office.

Bello who is also the chairman of the Ministerial Implementation Committee for the establishment of the national shipping fleet said the council has recommended a number of incentives to the Federal Government to help attract investment for the national carrier.

Bello who lamented that the country does not have a single ship despite having experienced people who could run the ships, said the council is also working with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to release part of the shipping development fund to help in the acquisition of the national carrier.

He said it is council’s desire to create a sustainable fleet that will work and not one that will just come and go. He said, “We got the 40 percent of technical partners for Singapore but how we could raise the 60 percent for Nigeria became almost impossible. But we have institutional money tied in NIMASA. For example, the ship development fund and other funds in NIMASA should be open to people.

“Nigerian Shippers Council has been working with NEXIM bank for a very long time to set up a fleet. But we have been having the technical issues including ship yard, ship repair yard, so that we can take our ships there. It will take time because we are also waiting for report from NIMASA cleaning up the ship registry. So all these things must come together otherwise, we would be working in vain.

“We don’t have a single ship in Nigeria and we have experience people who could run this. The shipping industry is what drives the economy. National fleet must be sustainable and is not something you go and purchase off the shelve. Of what use is national fleet, that may be will operate for two years and then collapse?

“National fleet is not buying bread. There are so many things one really needs to consider. Even the financial institutions, the insurance are very crucial to our indigenous fleet. When we have indigenous fleet, he who controls the transportation, controls everything.”

A member of the association and Former Nigeria’s Alternate Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Engr. Olu Akinsoji, noted that the industry has the potential and capacity to drive the national shipping line, but needed the government to also show the political will to make the national fleet successful.

“There is something that is still perennial in the matter and that is government interest in it. As much as we are in contact with NEXIM and they are ready to assist, and we also have some foreign investors coming in, they all want to see that government shows some interest in the matter.

“We have this development fund in NIMASA, which is not actually government money. It is already statutory allocated for the development of shipping. So, if part of that money is used as a seed money to attract and demonstrate the interest of government indirectly, it will attract and make the fleet successful,” he said.

Earlier, in his address, President of AMES, Uwadia, said the purpose of the visit was to solicit the council’s support in its forthcoming Technical Summit scheduled to hold May 22nd in Lagos.

He said the theme of the summit is Ship Operations in Nigeria: Its financial, challenges and prospects.

“We like to appreciate you for your achievements and also encourage you to keep the ship sailing. We have come here to solicit your support and your participation in this summit,” he said.

Bello, in his response had assured of the council’s readiness to support the association.

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